A fierce row has erupted over a US environmental pressure group’s call for South African wines to be boycotted following the shooting of beached whales on South African beaches.
According to Decanter magazine, Paul Watson of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society has called for the boycott after the director of South Africa’s Marine Coastal Management service. Mike Meyer, authorised the shooting of over 40 false killer whales. His aim is to force Meyer’s resignation.
Not surprisingly, the call has been condemned by South African vintners. They have a point, too.
For one thing, the decision to kill the whales appears to have been taken only after attempts to rescue them had failed – although apparently 13 of the 55 that beached were successfully rescued. And if the comments on the Decanter story are true, Watson and his organisation declined to offer assistance themselves on the rather feeble grounds that they didn’t want to be associated with a failed rescue. Whale expert Noel Ashton had a rather different take on things on the Africa Geographic website, pointing out the difficulties involved in the rescue: “…there were some very experienced people monitoring the situation, and the final decision to put them out of their misery I am sure was not taken lightly.”
More to the point is that, even if Watson’s criticisms had some validity, he’s choosing the wrong people to target. South Africa’s wine industry has been praised for its good record in supporting conservation initiatives, exemplified above all by its Biodiversity & Wine Initiative. The Cape Province is a biodiversity hotspot, and one which is set to come under increasing pressure as the effects of climate change grow. As temperatures rise, species tend to move away from the equator in search of new habitats – but, of course, the species at the Cape of Good Hope have nowhere to go.
Having a swipe at the South African wine industry on the basis of one official’s decision on an entirely unrelated matter makes no sense at all. I for one won’t be heeding Watson’s call.